Judge fines Kobach over document he took to Trump meeting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was fined $1,000 on Friday by a federal magistrate judge for “patently misleading representations” he made to the court about the contents of a document he was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump.
“The court agrees that the defendant’s deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions,” U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara wrote in his ruling.
Kobach did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The dispute stems from efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain a document that The Associated Press photographed Kobach taking into his meeting with Trump referencing a possible amendment to the National Voting Registration Act.
“It did alert us to the possibility that he wanted to change the federal motor voter law. That is relevant not only to our case, it is relevant to voters all across the country,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project.
That photograph prompted ACLU to seek to obtain it and any related materials on his proposed changes to federal voting law. Kobach essentially told the court and the ACLU that he didn’t have any such documents — the misrepresentation cited in the judge’s order.
The dispute arose in the ACLU’s federal lawsuit in Kansas challenging the state’s voter registration law that requires people to submit citizenship documents such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or U.S. passport.
Kobach initially refused to give the documents to the ACLU, prompting the group to seek a court order forcing him to turn over any documents about his efforts to change federal law on the type of information states require to determine voting eligibility.
In response to that motion, the judge said Kobach made misleading representations to the court about the contents of documents. When two federal judges subsequently privately examined them in chambers they found them to be relevant, and both ordered Kobach to give them to the ACLU.
Kobach eventually did so, but only after designating them “confidential” to prevent the public from seeing the documents.
The ACLU sought to have that designation removed, but the judge stopped short on Friday of ordering the materials to be made public.
Kobach has argued in a court filing that the ACLU’s efforts to make those materials public are meant “to annoy, harass and embarrass” him.
Trump has named Kobach vice chairman of a national election fraud commission. Kobach has announced he is running for Kansas governor.
The judge told Kobach to pay the fine by July 21, saying he was imposing the fine to deter him from deliberately attempting to mislead the court in the future. He also ordered Kobach to submit to questioning from the ACLU about the two documents at a closed deposition on July 5.